Katherine Hui and Michelle Thomas, teammates from Great Neck South High’s track team, not only placed first and second in the 14-to-19 age group in the Brooklynite Half Marathon, but also raised more than $1,260 to benefit the Lung Cancer Research Foundation/Free to Breathe through their efforts.
Considering that it was the first time the student athletes attempted to run a half marathon, they did quite well, completing the race in less than 1 hour and 54 minutes.
“These arduous commitments tested our mental endurance like no other race we’ve run before,” said Hui. “We were both initially excited to run a half marathon,” and this was a personal challenge, as both girls wanted to see if they could run 13.1 miles. Hui said they figured, “If we were going to face our own challenge, we might as well give back to
a community that has its own personal challenges.”
This cause had a personal connection for Hui. Her family was recently impacted by lung cancer, which compelled her to raise funds for the organization.
“Inspired to run because her grandfather was suddenly diagnosed last year with stage four lung cancer (his condition has since improved), Katherine was motivated to turn her personal challenges into a worthwhile cause to inspire and to benefit other lives touched by lung cancer,” said Hui’s father, Eric. “Only a high school junior and senior, Katherine and Michelle (respectively) trained together, fought together and ran together for their first half marathon to be the change they want to see in their lifetime.”
Due to their busy schedules, Hui and Thomas said, “Training was extremely complicated.” The athletes started preparing informally last August as their teammates began getting back into shape for fall sports. But, since January, the runners had been increasing their mileage, eventually reaching 25 to 35 miles a week. As the fundraiser drew closer, they increased their runs to 40 miles per week.
“Training for months and even running during finals week were not easy feats, we were both incredibly dedicated to putting our feet forward for charity in the best way we knew,” said Hui.
The runners were dedicated to reaching their goals and said they were “motivated to give back in the best way we know.”
Training for and committing to the half-marathon revealed a lot about themselves that they never knew.
“The process in what I should be doing to prepare in terms of eating habits, mental preparation, etc., is more rewarding, in my opinion, than an achievement on my résumé or a check on my bucket list,” said Hui.
Hui and Thomas encourage others to try running. They feel, “It is a mental challenge that surprises them on every run.”
They explained that running is a way for people to stay relaxed, present and healthy, whether or not they are involved in a track or cross country team. Though it is not the only way to stay active, putting on sneakers and going for a jog can improve mental health. They said that running gives “you the permission to escape within your own thoughts for a little while.”
Thomas and Hui also offered some advice to peers who want to become more involved and active in donating to charities. They said, “Fundraising is a challenge in itself,” and explained that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, which includes asking others for donations. Though asking for money can be an awkward situation, the girls learned that a person must push through to achieve goals.
“Last year, I participated in an Asian-American leadership conference,” said Hui. “One speaker’s message still stands with me today: ‘Not only should you do well, but you have to do good as well.’”
The girls feel that this is good advice for anyone who wishes to get involved in a charity event, as well as in life in general.
“In terms of the event itself, I can definitely say the challenges were well worth the cause,” said Hui. “The running was no simpler than the fundraising; to raise money for a goal is a challenge in itself. By the time we toed the starting line on race day, we were not surprised that the fiercely hot, yet windy conditions on Sunday morning were inevitably more hurdles to entertain before reaping the rewards—but there’s nothing more motivating than brunch and water at the finish line.”
Contribute to the cause at http://participate.freetobreathe.org/goto/donate.